The late US President Franklin D. Roosevelt would have had a hard time running for president in Azerbaijan, where doctors say that people with a physical impairment should not run the country.
In a campaign season, experts of all walks of life tend to pass judgment on presidential candidates, but an eye doctor advising voters is something new.
Nonetheless, last week, three Azerbaijani ophthalmologists called a press conference in Baku to declare that the man who plans to challenge President Iham Aliyev’s continuous hold on power is unfit for the country’s top job.
The vision of Jamil Hasanli, the 61-year-old candidate from the National Council of Democratic Forces, a bloc of Azerbaijan's main opposition parties, is seriously impaired and he will not be able to work full-time as president, claimed ophthalmologist Gurban Ismailov.
“As a doctor, I can tell you that he is unlikely to do well as a president and commander-in-chief,” said another opthalmologist, Jeyhun Alahverdiyev.
Hasanli has acknowledged that he has had recurring problems with his left eye since the 1980s; in 2011, he was diagnosed with diabetes, a condition, which, depending on his personal situation, could, potentially, complicate attempts at further surgery for his eye problem.
The esteemed panel, though, appeared to have acquired detailed knowledge. They claimed that Hasanli suffers from diabetic angiopathy -- a deterioration of the blood vessels -- which, they claim, has affected his eyesight. How they acquired this alleged information is unclear.
The doctors also offered no explanation, medical or otherwise, for why the Central Election Commission, aware of his condition, raised no objections to his candidacy.
But their implied message was plain: let the man with 20/20 vision for Azerbaijan, Ilam Aliyev, keep running the country.
Aliyev, apparently determined to keep the presidency in the family, is running for a third term in office in a move that the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Lilia Shevtsova described recently as the onset of a sultanate, with opponents dismissively swept aside.
Rights organizations have observed an increase in arrests and harassment of anti-establishment activists , though Azerbaijani officials tend to disregard criticism as sheer schadenfreude by foreign governments and international organizations.
With the election scheduled for October 9, any smear campaign against government opponents can acquire only so many ridiculous forms, but there is certainly enough time for other unlikely election experts -- say, chiropractors -- also to weigh in.